SPRINGFIELD , Ohio — Unexpected outcomes have generated positive results for Jacob Ark, Wittenberg class of 2008.
Last month, Ark received a first-place award for an undergraduate student paper competition at the Ohio Valley Entomological Association’s annual meeting held in Cincinnati. The competition was a first for the biology major, who presented ground-breaking research about the discovery of the first mite defense secretion. The research provides evidence of an alarm pheromone in a terrestrial mite.
Ironically, Ark’s research developed out of a different study he intended to investigate over the summer, the water balance of adult ticks. He was the only first-year student allocated a $2,300 summer grant for research purposes. However, upon discovering mites in the Atrium of Wittenberg’s Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center, the direction of the research took an unanticipated turn, leading to innovative discoveries.
Further exploration of the mites, which were a previously unidentified species, allowed Ark to discover how they differentiate between other mite species. He invested more than 60 hours a week for the research.
“I was never pressured to work [the extra hours],” he said. “I just felt that strongly about the project.”
Ark presented his findings in a competition that included nearly 60 other students, representing universities across the Midwest. Receiving first place, he said, was a relief.
“Winning the competition helped remind me why I do what I do,” Ark said. “It helped redeem long lab hours, missed social events, and it made me feel good to represent my lab, the biology department and Wittenberg.”
Ark’s dedication to science emerged while he was a first-year student. However, studying biology was not his original plan. As a high school senior, the Springfield native enrolled at Wittenberg through the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program (PSEOP) and intended to pursue computer graphic design at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Instead, he came to Wittenberg, took a couple introductory biology classes and was asked to help conduct research for the biology department. Ark credits Jay Yoder, associate professor of biology, for supporting him throughout his research.
“Dr. Yoder has been the biggest contributor in creating [research] opportunities,” he said.
Last year’s experience led to five published papers in various journals, including the Journal of Insect Physiology, Biological Control and the Journal of Experimental Biology. Ark also collaborated with Josh Benoit ’05 to research fungus water balance, red mites and spider beetle water balance. Benoit, a biochemistry major, is now a graduate student working to earn his Ph.D. in entomology and microbiology at The Ohio State University.
Currently, Ark is awaiting the acceptance of three additional papers that he submitted to the International Journal of Acarology (IJA), a publication that focuses on the research of a variety of acarological subjects including biochemistry, ecology and tick and mite behavior.
Ark is also busy writing grants, papers, abstracts and creating a poster from his presentation to be displayed in the science center. However, he is still dedicated to research and looks forward to getting back in the lab.
“Whatever free time I can get I try to put into research. Sometimes it’s five hours a week, sometimes it’s over 20,” he said.
- Sarah Gearhart '06
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